The Police Service, which has been in existence for the past century or so with pride, has systematically declined to the lowest level in the eyes of the general public. The media have a field day in reporting the Police Department’s corruption, inaction, political servility, inefficiency and incompetence. The crime rate has spiralled and the [...]

Sunday Times 2

IGP and senior DIGs must learn to say ‘no’ to politicos


The Police Service, which has been in existence for the past century or so with pride, has systematically declined to the lowest level in the eyes of the general public. The media have a field day in reporting the Police Department’s corruption, inaction, political servility, inefficiency and incompetence. The crime rate has spiralled and the rate of conviction of accused has declined. Occasionally sensational cases of crime are solved, whereas the majority of the criminal cases, especially if the perpetrators have political patronage, go unresolved.

Be that as it may, the latest police servility, evident in the transfer of 23 officers from the Organised Crimes Division (OCD), has been prime news for the media. The reason for transferring these officers is now well known, though there were attempts by the Police Department to sweep it under the carpet. Armed with legal warrants, they raided a gambling den in the heart of the city. It is not merely the raid, but the arrest of the people and the powerful personalities involved that prompted the transfer.

Police officers have come under fire for their servility to politicos

When MPs raised the matter up in parliament, various lame excuses were trotted out even by the Prime Minister. It was said that these officers had been too long in that division but this has been proved incorrect. Another reason given was that most of the officers were involved in the harassment of some businessmen etc. In spite of these attempts to cover up the wrongdoing, the cat is now out of the bag. One opposition member referred to one “Hula”. But the husband of the woman who ran this gambling den has openly identified who this “Hula” is.

The general rules of transfer of police officers have been clearly spelt out in the Departmental Orders A 11 of the Police Department. Normal transfers are approved on an application made by an officer who also gives the grounds for the request for transfer. If the grounds attributed by the officer are reasonable, the transfer will be granted.

= Application for Transfers – Any officer can request a privilege transfer to his or his wife’s native Province or Division. If such transfer is granted, the officer’s work and conduct after his transfer are monitored periodically to ascertain and ensure whether the officer has earned the privilege of continuing to serve in his own Province for a further period.

= Transfer on health grounds – An officer wanting a transfer on health grounds, which should be supported by a medical certificate which should indicate the reasons for recommending the transfer by the Medical Officer, specifically stating the climate etc.

= Transfer on disciplinary grounds – There is also provision for any officer to be transferred on disciplinary and administrative grounds, notwithstanding the above provision, at very short notice at the officer’s expense, where it is considered that the transfer is necessary on disciplinary or administrative grounds.

Perhaps the Police Department has taken cover under this provision to transfer the 23 officers from the Organised Crimes Division after they raided the gambling den managed by powerful business personalities supported by the politically-connected figure, who has now been identified as ‘Hulugalle’.

If one analyses this, were there disciplinary or administrative grounds which the Department considered for the transfer? Were there any allegations against the officers? Was there any preliminary investigation? Were charge-sheets served on the officers? To everyone’s knowledge there was nothing of this sort. The only offence these officers committed was to raid the gambling den and arrest those engaged in illegal gambling after they obtained a warrant from a Magistrate to raid and arrest those involved.

What has become of the Police Department? If these honest officers had been punished because of the influence wielded by “Hula”, the senior Police Officers who are responsible for the transfer should hang their heads in shame and leave the service. Should not the IGP and senior DIGs have the courage to say “NO” to such illegal orders or requests? Do they not know the background of “Hula”? Why sacrifice honest police officers whose only offence has been to carry out their duties in detecting offences which are enshrined in the law books?

I wish to recall an incident in 1960 when I was attached to the Pettah Police Station. The place of a cannabis (ganja) seller who had powerful political connections was raided by me and some other officers. At that time, the late Mr. Abeykoon who was a civilian was brought in as acting Inspector General of Police. The ASP was the late L.C. Jeerasinghe. This ganja dealer was the supporter of a leading politician of the then government. The politician approached the Acting IGP and urged him to have me transferred out of the Pettah Police Station. The politician told Mr. Abeykoon that a respectable constituent of his had made some serious allegations against me and wanted me transferred out immediately from the Pettah Police Station as well as from the Colombo Division.

When this was conveyed to ASP Jeerasinghe by the late Stanley Senanayake, the then Commissioner of Police, the ASP sought permission from the Commissioner to speak to the IGP directly about my transfer. Having gathered all information about the ganja dealer who was an IRC and who had been convicted many times for ganja offences, he telephoned Mr. Abeykoon directly and gave him the history of the ganja dealer whom the politician had spoken on behalf as a respectable constituent. At the end of the conversation, Mr. Jeerasinghe clearly said if the Sub-Inspector was to be transferred, he too may be transferred out of the Colombo Division. With this, the IGP stopped proceedings and I remained in Pettah. This was the type of senior officers we had and the rank and file expect the IGP and the senior DIGs to stand by them if they have done no wrong.

The Police Department headed by the IGP and senior DIGs must resolve to resist any illegal orders by politicians or political henchmen. This practice has ruined the Police Department as the brickbats hurled at the Police Department are mostly due to the IGP and the senior Police Officers being servile to political masters. It is high time the IGP and the senior DIGs safeguarded the integrity and the dignity of the Police Department and officers working under them.

The Rule of Law must be implemented by the Police Department and we must not allow the Rule of Politicians to flourish. Let the Police Department regain its lost reputation so that the members of the public will look to the Police Department as their guardians.
The writer is a retired Deputy Inspector General of Police

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